Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Baseball Project

I have this irritating tendency to forget that I have an emusic subscription, so I either waste a month's downloads, or I find myself scrambling at the eleventh hour to select 90 tracks. Which is what happened to me last night. I got some older Cathie Ryan, the cast recording of In The Heights and some assorted other stuff when I found this.

The Baseball Project turns out to be a collaborative project between Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Miracle 3) and Scott McCaughey (R.E.M.) who discovered a mutual obsession with baseball and casually discussed a baseball based musical project for several years before actually settling down to work on The Baseball Project, Volume One: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails last year. It's rare that I'm on top of something so quickly, but the album was just released last week, and on a lark, I downloaded it in it's entirety.

It's quite good. Largely story songs about some of the great or quirky baseball stories. (Plenty of material there for several more volumes!) Musically, it's easy and accessible, nothing earth shattering, but well worth the listen. Lyrically it's much more compelling. In Harvey Haddix, an argument for the inclusion of Haddix on any list of perfect game hurlers, they manage to use the names of all 17 pitchers to officially perform that feat without sounding at all stilted. For those of you to whom that made no sense, Haddix, pitching for the Pirates, took a perfect game into the 13th inning only to lose the game. It's the longest perfect stretch in one outing, and yet, since he did eventually allow one hit, not a perfect game. He did, however, pitch the 27 up, 27 down that the others did, and then again a third of a game. An interesting argument, and a fun song.

I particularly enjoyed Ted Fucking Williams as well, and The Yankee Flipper. The album as a whole is a love letter from some total baseball dorks who just happen to be first rate musicians to the sport they follow religiously. Critical in places, such as Gratitude (for Curt Flood), about the Gold Glove center fielder who's unsuccessful challenge to the reserve system opened the door for free agency (and today's sky high salaries), but still reverent and joyful.

And did I mention that it's just fun to listen to? I want to take it out for a drive!

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